Herbert returns, Oregon beats Arizona 48-28Posted: Updated:
Royce Freeman ran for four touchdowns and Oregon got a boost from the return of starting quarterback Justin Herbert for a 48-28 victory over Arizona on Saturday night.
The victory made the Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) bowl eligible in Willie Taggart's first season as head coach.
Freeman ran for 135 yards on 19 carries. His first scoring run of the game gave him the Oregon career record for rushing touchdowns.
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate was held back by Oregon's defense, passing for 159 yards and a touchdown while running for 32 yards. Tate, who was the team's leading rusher with 11 touchdowns, had run for a in each of the last six games for Arizona (7-4, 5-3).
Herbert returned from a five-game absence because of a broken collarbone. There was a roar of applause when he was announced as the starter by the public address announcer at Autzen Stadium.
He proclaimed his comeback on-field with a 40-yard dash for a touchdown in the opening quarter that tied the game at 7.
Herbert was injured in Oregon's 45-24 victory over California on Sept. 30 and replaced by true freshman Braxton Burmeister. The Ducks went 1-4 over the course of Herbert's absence.
He passed for 235 yards and a score in his return.
The Wildcats scored first Saturday on Nick Wilson's 18-yard run. After Herbert's long scoring run, Freeman ran four yards for his 59th touchdown, setting a new Oregon career record.
Arizona's Dane Cruikshank intercepted Herbert early in the second quarter and ran the ball back 64 yards into the end zone but as he sprinted the final 10 yards he wagged his finger at the Oregon players chasing him. He was flagged for taunting and the touchdown was negated.
Arizona ended the drive with a touchdown anyway when Tate hit Tony Ellison with a 15-yard touchdown and then Wilson gave the Wildcats a 21-14 lead with a 20-yard scoring run.
But Herbert found Jacob Breeland with 39-yard touchdown pass to tie it again and Freeman added a 28-yard scoring run to give the Ducks a 28-21 lead at halftime.
Freeman added an 11-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, but Arizona kept it close with Zach Green's 2-yard touchdown run.
Aiden Schneider's 40-yard field goal gave the Ducks a 38-28 lead to open the fourth quarter. After Herbert's 50-yard pass to Johnny Johnson III, Freeman ran a yard for his fourth TD of the night. He moved past LaDanian Tomlinson into 10th on the NCAA's career list with 5,499 yards and has 58 career rushing touchdowns, one shy of conference record set by Oregon State's Ken Simonton (1998-2001).
Schneider's 24-yard field goal was for the final margin.
Tate went into the game leading the nation with five 70-plus yard runs, four of them for touchdowns. He has the longest run for a quarterback (82 yards) and his 327 yards rushing against Colorado set a single-game NCAA record for a QB.
Arizona: Wilson has 33 career touchdowns. ... Arizona is finishing out its season with consecutive road games for the first time since 2009. ... The Wildcats had won five of the last six games. ... Arizona was already assured of playing in the postseason. USC has already clinched a spot in the league championship game for the Pac-12 South.
Oregon: Freeman had not scored a rushing touchdown since Sept. 23. He went over 100 yards rushing for the 30th time in his career. ... It was the third time he's run for four touchdowns in a game. ... Oregon was coming off a bye after a 38-3 loss at Washington.
Arizona will visit Arizona State in Tempe in a Territorial Cup rivalry game next Saturday.
The Ducks will host Oregon State in the annual Civil War on Thanksgiving weekend.
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